The food and beverage artisan area at Bloomington’s farmers market during the 2019 season.
The dark blue is the amount of revenue generated by food and beverage vendors at Bloomington’s farmers market.
Bloomington parks commissioners from left: Les Coyne,
At the podium is Eric Schedler, of Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery, who advocated for a reduction in fees for food and beverage artisans at Bloomington’s farmers market.
At its Tuesday meeting, a short-handed board of park commissioners decided on a split vote to reject the city staff’s proposed fee structure for food and beverage artisans in the coming season at Bloomington’s farmers market.
Bloomington parks and recreation staff will now work to come up with an alternate fee structure proposal for food and beverage artisans.
Five protesters who were arrested at Bloomington’s farmers market on Nov. 9 last year, will not be prosecuted for their actions, according to a statement issued Wednesday morning by Monroe County’s prosecutor. They had been given summonses for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.
The protest got national attention in part because of the inflatable purple unicorn costume worn by one of the protestors.
In the statement from the prosecutor’s office, Monroe County’s prosecutor, Erika Oliphant, is quoted saying, “My office has evaluated the specific facts and circumstances surrounding these citations, and we have decided that it is appropriate to decline prosecution in this instance.”
The specific facts of the situation included protest activity—holding signs and loud singing inside the market vendor area—directed at the Schooner Creek Farm stand. The owners of Schooner Creek were identified by local activists earlier in the year as having ties to a white supremacist group.
Forrest Gillmore demonstrates at the farmers market on Nov. 9, 2019.
Thomas Westgard demonstrates at the farmers market on Nov. 9, 2019. Sarah Dye, the vendor against whom Westgard is protesting, captures the scene on her smart phone.
Forrest Gillmore, in his unicorn suit, is lead away by police officers on Nov. 9, 2019
Members of the farmers market advisory council at their meeting on Nov. 18, 2019.
Vauhxx Booker addresses the farmers market advisory council on Nov. 18.
At Monday’s meeting of the farmers market advisory council, held in Bloomington’s city council chambers, few answers about the future of the market could be gleaned from the group’s discussion. That’s partly because the group’s role is just advisory, to the city’s four-member board of park commissioners.
Department administrator for the parks and recreation department, Paula McDevitt, told the advisory council “[W]e do not have an announcement tonight about the future of the market…”
What makes the future uncertain has been a season of protests against a vendor with alignment to white-supremacist groups. The market was suspended for two weeks in late July amid concerns about possible violence.
At Monday’s meeting, the market’s coordinator, Marcia Veldman, said attendance was off by about half compared to previous years. The last couple of years, the market has seen around a quarter million visitors in the course of a season, according to the city of Bloomington’s data portal.
For several vendors, the timeframe for making a decision about whether sell at the market next year is short. Rebecca Vadas is a honey vendor who also sits on the farmers market advisory council. She said at Monday’s meeting that she had to make a decision by mid-December. One of the decisions she has to make is how many bees to buy. “We’re all at a crossroads,” she said.
The farmers market will re-open on Saturday, August 17 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Showers Common, the usual time and place.
The general background for the temporary market closure was described this way in the City’s initial press release: “Since the recent public discussion of ties between a vendor at the market and white nationalist causes and groups, the City has identified increasing threats to public safety.”
The press release also hinted at more concrete reasons: “…[I]nformation gathered identifying threats of specific individuals with connections to past white nationalist violence, present the potential for future clashes.”
Tuesday’s release describes several measures meant to improve security and make people feel safe:
Cameras to monitor the site
Two public streets will be closed to traffic during market hours. The idea is to create a larger “comfort zone” for the market crowd. (Morton Street from 7th Street to just south of the Smallwood garage entrance, and 7th Street between Morton and the B-Line Trail; 8th Street will be closed west of the market to the entrance of the Cook Medical Center).
Police presence will be increased.
New “market ambassadors” will welcome market visitors.
New signage will indicate areas designated for flyering and publicize the market’s rules.
The first of two non-market Saturdays is now in the books for the farmers market facility on Morton Street in downtown Bloomington, next to city hall.
Substituting for the usual location yesterday were several alternate spots. Of those, probably the most prominent was the parking lot of the former Kmart location off 3rd street, behind the east-side Bloomingfoods.
That’s where around 50 vendors listed on the welcome table’s roster and booth map were selling fresh produce from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
At least a few hundred people were at the market when The Beacon dropped by around 10:30 a.m.
They’ll repeat that scene next Saturday, but return to downtown Bloomington the following week—if the City of Bloomington has been able to implement the safeguards it thinks are necessary to re-open the market.